Tagged: “Dr. Robert Enright”

If a person did not mean to hurt me by certain actions, does this mean there was no injustice and therefore there is nothing to forgive?

Sometimes even if a person did not intend to hurt you, the actions themselves can be insensitive and hurtful and therefore you can forgive.  As an example, suppose someone was texting while driving and runs into your car.  Although the person did not intend to cause an accident, that person still should have been paying more attention.  The intention to do wrong was not there, but the necessity to be paying close attention also was not there.  If the victim sees this as negligence, then the victim can go ahead with forgiving.  Wrongful actions without bad intentions still can warrant forgiving the one who engaged in those actions.

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I don’t get it.  Why does the forgiveness process involve the victim trying to see the woundedness in the one who acted wrongly?  So what if that person was treated badly by others.  How does that take away my inner torment?

The point of seeing the woundedness in the other, if those wounds exist, is to slowly start to engender some empathy and compassion in you for that person.  In other words, the point is to see a person who is more than the injustices against you.  Your seeing the other’s wounds can be a first step in your softening your heart toward that person.

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What do you see as the most common misconception about what forgiving is?

I think right now the mot common misconception is this:  When I forgive I try to “move on” from the hurtful situation.  As I move on, then the inner pain may lessen.  Yet, in my experience with others, no matter how far you try to run from the pain, it runs even faster than you.  So, if you try to run from the pain for two weeks, as you stop to rest, there is the pain right beside you asking the question, “What do you want to do now?  Shall we reflect even more on me, the pain, now?”  Forgiveness is not a moving on from the pain, but instead is a moral virtue of offering good toward the offending other person.  The paradox is this: As you engage in goodness toward that other person, it is you who is healed.

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What is the difference between genuine guilt and false guilt?

False guilt occurs when you have not broken your own moral standards.  For example, suppose you have to meet someone soon and you forget your car keys, necessitating that you go back into your home, find your keys, get the keys, and now you are late for the meeting.  You did not intentionally try to be late for that meeting.  You made an error and did not willingly break a standard of honoring the other person.  Your acceptance of imperfection may be in order, but to deeply blame the self would be excessive and therefore in all likelihood is false guilt.  Genuine guilt occurs when you have broken your moral standards and now you are feeling guilty until you make amends.  As a final point here, sometimes unintentional errors can be serious enough to warrant guilt.  For example, if you are driving in your car and texting on your phone at the same time, resulting in an accident, you should have been paying more attention to the driving.  In that case, even without an intention to do wrong, the guilt would be genuine.

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